The Zirdle

I discovered the Zirdle my first season working at the fly shop. It was hidden in the top row of the streamer bin, on a need-to-know basis. Of course, that prompted my curiosity. On my next day off I fished the bird float (Grey Owl to Mallards) with a couple buddies. The Yellowstone was dropping after an early spring runoff and the flows were still high, but the river had a nice green tinge to it. That’s when I learned first-hand how effective this fly could be. All you had to do, it seemed, was toss it close to the bank and let it drag off into the deeper water. Fish on! Since then I’ve had a lot of great fishing thanks to the Zirdle.

As the name suggests, the Zirdle is a cross between a Zonker and a Girdle Bug. The life-like action of rubber legs and rabbit fur represents a variety of big meals for trout. It seems so natural that you wonder why you didn’t think of it. It resembles a stonefly nymph and a sculpin; it even passes for a crayfish.

Each situation calls for a different way of presenting the fly. You can dead-drift it just like a nymph, or you can impart action by swinging it, stripping it, or simply dragging it off the bank.

To tie the Zirdle, start by wrapping the shank of the hook with lead wire and tying in some Krystal Flash for your tail. The amount of lead and flash are both a matter of personal preference. Keep in mind that you can always trim back the Krystal Flash as well as add weight with split shot once the fly is finished.

Secure the rabbit strip and your chenille to the bend of the hook. Hold them back to keep them out of the way while you get ready to tie in your first set of rubber legs about a third of the way up the shank.

Lay one leg on each side of the hook parallel to the shank and wrap your thread around the middle of them. This creates a total of four legs, two angled forward and two angled back. Repeat with another set of legs located two-thirds of the way up the shank.

Carefully wrap the chenille forward, making sure to get it behind, between, and in front of the rubber legs in order to splay them out. Tie off the chenille near the eye of the hook. Then pull the rabbit strip forward over the top and tie it down. Add one last pair of rubber legs sticking out the front like antennae. Whip finish and cement.

With all of the different colors of rabbit strips and variegated chenille, you can a tie a Zirdle for any occasion. Olive is my favorite color for this fly, but it also works well in brown or tan. Give this fly a try this spring and you’ll know why it’s tucked away in the top row of the streamer bin.

Hook: Dai Riki #700 streamer hook, size 6
Thread: black Uni-thread 3/0
Tail: olive Krystal
Flash Body: olive rabbit strip
Underbody: yellow/brown variegated chenille Legs: pumpkin Sili Legs

Kit Sawyer works at The River’s Edge and has been exploring the rivers of Southwest Montana for 10 years.